Beyond the Orchard…
A haunting story of yearning, love and betrayal from the bestselling author of Thornwood House.
Lucy Briar has arrived home in turmoil after years overseas. She’s met her fiancé in London and has her life mapped out, but something is holding her back.
Hoping to ground herself and find answers, Lucy settles into once familiar routines. But old tortured feelings flood Lucy’s existence when her beloved father, Ron, is hospitalised and Morgan – the man who drove her away all those years ago – seeks her out.
Worse, Ron implores Lucy to visit Bitterwood Estate, the crumbling historic family guesthouse now left to him. He needs Lucy to find something– an old photograph album, the very thing that drove Ron and his father apart.
Lucy has her own painful memories of Bitterwood, darkness that has plagued her dreams since she was young. But as Lucy searches for the album, the house begins to give up its ghosts and she is driven to put them to rest.
And there, held tightly between the house, the orchard and the soaring cliffs, Lucy uncovers a long-hidden secret that shattered a family’s bond and kept a frightened young girl in its thrall … and Lucy discovers just how fierce the lonely heart can be.
Beyond the Orchard captivated me right from its opening scene. A shroud of mystery hangs heavy throughout this novel, but Anna Romer skillfully parcels out what you need to know at perfect intervals. With a storyline that features multiple characters in several different eras, this novel is a world unto its own. A moody ancient house with secret crevices and hidden truths; stormy nights and angst aplenty. Key ingredients for an absorbing read.
You can’t help but be gripped with a feeling of dread as the story progresses, this being one of the many reasons why I couldn’t put this novel down. Each of the characters are rich and engaging, their individual stories as well as the way they are all woven together a triumph in character development that many novelists fall short on. I particularly loved the way this family’s history was so strongly linked with the present. There was a slight supernatural element to the story that depicted fear and enhanced our imaginings quite brilliantly. The inclusion of the fractured fairytale throughout the novel at key points was storytelling at its best.
As the novel built to its close, I was overcome with a deep sadness for the characters, particularly Edwin, but also Clarice, and of course their son, Ronald. To me, Beyond the Orchard is above all a story that examines love; in all of its varying forms and demonstrations. I am so impressed by Anna Romer’s skill as a novelist; this was the first novel of hers that I have read and I will definitely be reading her other two as soon as possible!
Beyond the Orchard was read in November 2016 as part of my Australian Women Writers Challenge. This review has been re-written from an earlier version that appeared on Goodreads at the time of reading.